RICR No. 853

Protection des journalistes et des médias en période de conflit armé

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AbstractThe recent war in Iraq is a perfect illustration of the growing risks faced by journalists working in conflict zones. It is therefore important to call renewed attention to the fact that attacks against journalists and media equipment are illegal under international humanitarian law, which protects civilian persons and objects, as long as they are not making an effective contribution to military action: The media cannot be considered a legitimate target, even if they are being used for propaganda purposes, unless they are being exploited to instigate grave breaches of humanitarian law. Journalists and media personnel also benefit from precautionary measures — not confined to them alone — such as the principle of proportionality and the obligation to give advance warning. There is nonetheless an evident need for the adoption of a new instrument, on the one hand to reaffirm those elements of humanitarian law that apply to journalists and media personnel, and thus to reestablish the authority of certain basic rules that are all too often flouted, and, on the other hand, to improve existing law and adapt it to the requirements of today, for instance the phenomenon of “embedded” journalists. Such is the goal of the “Declaration on the safety of journalists and media personnel in situations involving armed conflict”, drawn up in 2003 by Reporters without Borders.

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